By Stan Welch
The Town of Williamston has a budget for the coming year that includes funding for several new Envision Williamston projects and an administrative oversight position that will help in several areas the town has struggled with in the past.
The special called meeting Monday followed a budget work session held by the Council last Thursday evening. At that meeting, which consisted primarily of an unusual, and questionable, executive session that lasted a little over an hour, several changes in the budget were presented.
While votes are not allowed in a workshop format, the changes appeared to receive a consensus of the Council. Two items were offered as the reasons for the executive session, which was unusual both for its occurrence during a workshop session, and its purpose; one of which was to discuss the restoration to the budget of an administrative position that was vacated several months earlier.
The South Carolina Freedom of Information Act provides very minimal protections for matters related to the public treasury. The salary for a proposed job and the establishment of the duties for that job would not appear to meet the criteria for those protections.
The other item discussed in executive session concerned a contractual matter, which later was presented to the full Council for action Monday night.
Other budget changes which were proposed last Thursday, and which were incorporated into the final budget ordinance, revolved around several programs proposed by Envision Williamston. Primary among those proposals, at least in terms of cost, was a four color electronic sign, at a cost of $32,500.
The sign, according to the proposal by Envision Williamston, will be owned by the Town and its content will be controlled by the town.
Another program under Envision Williamston, the Main Street Challenge, is described as an entrepeneurial start-up competition, and is essentially a subsidy for up to ten thousand dollars for businesses occupying existing retail space in the downtown area. It is a private/public partnership, which would target businesses providing goods and services other than those already available. The businesses would be required to agree to a three year lease, and the funds would be provided on a 2:1 basis, with private sources providing the bulk of the money.
Two other projects including funding to existing banners with more durable and colorful ones,in addition to a community engagement project called HOWDY, (Hands On Williamston Day) designed to cleanup the downtown and to create murals in certain locations. The total cost of the various proposals totals $49,000.
Councilman Rockey Burgess, after securing assurances of increased accountability by any groups receiving such funding, moved to approve the package, which passed by a unanimous vote of the Council.
An amendment by Mayor Durham redirected $5000 from a nuisance abatement program to the fire department, to be used for additional training.
Following those amendments, the budget received unanimous second reading approval.
The budget also restored the $45,000 position (including benefits) that was the subject of extended discussion at Thursday night’s executive session.
According to the job description provided to Council members, the major phases of the job are codes compliance, in the areas of zoning, property maintenance, signs, business licenses, and related matters;administrative support in the areas of daily administrative functions, grant writing, project management and safety matters; and public relations.
Public Relations would include handling the town’s website, social media activities and communication on community interests such as road work schedules, police initiatives, town sponsored events, volunteer opportunities and other associated aspects.
Council then heard a presentation by a representative of ClearLink, a company which currently provides phone and internet services to the town of Anderson and was pitching its services to the Town Council Monday night.
Councilman Rockey Burgess, who is one of the company’s owners, abstained from the vote, which approved the contract.
That contract was also discussed at Thursday’s budget session. Burgess left the executive session during that part of the discussion.
As those were the only items on the agenda for the special called meeting, the Council then adjourned.
Additional Town of Williamston budget information is available online at www.maryland.cochranfirmcriminaldefense.com.